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tv   Book Discussion on The Bright Continent  CSPAN  July 4, 2014 2:32pm-3:16pm EDT

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talk about the upcoming revelations, and you want to scoop yourself. and occupy wall street in upcoming stories? >> the reason i don't want to talk about these is i don't want to scoop myself. these are hard documents to get a hold of and understand meaning of and the context they are in and how you can best communicate them to the world. working with smart editors and journalists you are working with and there have been a couple occasions early on when i made claims, thought i understood fully, that turned out not to be the way i wanted to describe them. that is the reason i don't talk about feature reporting. the other thing to keep in mind is one of the things that happened is people realize the vast mass of the information we were given there was almost an expectation that we have the holy grail to solve all in justices, all the vials of the
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u.s. government opposite action so that every person who cared about any kind of injustice would e-mail me, see me on the streets and demand you release documents, then of course we have them. if every single -- let me say this about the question you asked. every single document in the archives that reveals abusive or improper surveillance for surveillance done for political ends or surveillance that is that a way that is different from how the u.s. government has been claiming it is done will be published, whether it is published by me or somebody else. >> are you talking to martin gelman? he talked about more information coming? >> there's a good, healthy competition that fuels each of us. i am not talking to martin gelman but i hope and expect he will continue to do the reporting he has been doing.
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thank you, everybody, so much. i appreciate it. [applause] >> thank you for joining us and for your thoughtful questions. we now have the book signing. if the number on your ticket is between 1, an 75 please join us in line, books are for sale in the lobby. [inaudible conversations] >> is there a nonfiction author or boat you would like to see featured on booktv? send us an e-mail at
2:35 pm or tweet us at >> now on booktv, dayo olopade talks about her book "the bright continent: breaking rules and making change in modern africa" at the "the chicago tribune" printers rolaids test. it looks at the new and creative ideas people in sub-saharan africa are coming up with to deal with the global challenges they face today. this is about 45 minutes. >> thank you and thanks for coming. it is great to meet you and to have a chance to talk about this wonderful book. i wanted to start with that wonderful essay from the great kenyan satirist denyer banca pena who wrote the mind blowing league good as they how to write about africa by which he meant how all of us who write about the continent should stop representing get.
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he stunned with the following. broad brushstrokes throughout are good. avoid having the african characters laugh or struggled to educate their kids or just make do in mundane circumstances. have them eliminate something about europe or america, african characters should be colorful, exotic, larger than life but empty inside with no dialogue, no conflict or resolutions and their stories, no depth or quirks to confuse the cause. perhaps we could start there since it seems to me your book is precisely what he is advocating in his essay and that is a portrayal of africans as people with their own agency and idiosyncrasies and the sense of destiny. what inspired the project in the first place? were you just fed up with the way africa was being reported on?
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what you call poverty porn? >> yes, that is the short answer. first and foremost thank you for being here. i am glad you chose this particular essay which has a lot of relevance. he was writing about fiction but when it comes to nonfiction which is my discipline, the same narrative by replicate, where you reference poverty porn whereiases replicate, where you reference poverty porn where even the most recent weeks the stories that got our attention with the kidnapping of nigerian school children rather than decades, weeks, months, years of slow, not sexy, economic development. it is hard to grab our attention when the story is one of generally incremental positive gain. to that extent, i think that is
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the good example of the way nonfiction media industry, the reporters community of which i find myself a part, struggles to get the attention of the world at large, issues of african development and ordinary africa. with respect to my book i am proud that there are no animals in this book. a book about africa without animals. i didn't realize until i looked at the manuscript when it was finished, oh my gosh, i did it, no safaris, no sun sets, none of that. this book is a user's emanual for the africa you have not heard about. a very ordinary thing. given that my background is one of someone born in the u.s. in chicago, spend a lot of time in sub-saharan africa, it has given me a unique perspective on where we are missing the mark, we are not understanding and ordinary things like giving directions that here we would say come in
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to 700 state street but in nairobi you would be like i am going to work with the -- look for the petro station a diffuse yet yellow building you have gone too far so ask someone and doubled back and so it is all contexture will and very ordinary little differences between types of societies that i seek to eliminate which is not as sensational or as gripping as the story of a kidnapping or multimillion dollar banking transaction but is really the substance of a real africa of the by try to eliminate in "the bright continent". >> let's pick up there and talked about how being a homegrown chicagoan from europe, nigerian family, how did that inform the way you approach the story you wanted to tell? >> i spent a lot of time in
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nigeria and sort of shuttle diplomacy between washington where i was working as a reporter covering american politics, covering the state department international development, and again eliminated where we were missing the mark. i was inspired to write the book not just by the sort of casual conversations and good fortune i had to go back and forth. there were a lot of africans who do not have the opportunity to go home and to feel like another relative to them but it was when i was covering the united nations week which is general assembly every september, everyone comes to new york, traffic is crazy -- every head of state and all-around garages are in new york and in 2010 it was the tenth anniversary of the famous money in development goal which was the blueprint for poverty with these simple steps,
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and i am a journalist. as an american journalist working for an american publication i was watching this presentation and the united nations have a poster competition to commemorate the tenth anniversary and the winning posted a selected those to the agency were mentioning and the top of the photo, there is a photo that is hard to describe. from baa bottom up it was the leaders of the g 8 in their suits and you could tell because angela merkel was the one woman in a pant suits and from the waist down it had what i could only assume was african children in the refugee camp. no faces. they had no shoes, they were waiting in line. the headline read deer world leaders:we are still waiting. that just jolted my sensibilities. it took me out of my role as an american reporter and put me in the role of an irritated african because anyone who spent time in
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sub-saharan africa knows that people work twice as hard to get half as far. someone could be sitting around waiting, is preposterous. my very first trip to nigeria i remember being floored at what you could buy in traffic. i was 10 years old, nose pressed against the glass in traffic seeing people selling fruit, electronics, art, people selling anything you could think of, live animals, vhs tapes which dates me a little bit. an enormous amount of energy, agency, dynamism and forced innovation and i think that ended up being the president seemed of "the bright continent," necessity is the mother of invention, africa is the mother of necessity. we are missing that. the world including the united nations, thinking most critically about what life is like contexture will be in poor
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countries. so that, within a month, i had liquidated all my things. >> as you set off, what were the misconceptions that you were carrying yourself into that situation? what were the biggest surprises for you? >> great question. i will answer in two ways. one, i think, formality bias is a term i:in the book to talk about the expectation that things should look as organized as they look in the united states or another wealthy western country. is a presumption that getting directions means google maps or whatever and you get where you are going. that extends to the roll and reach of government. as someone who is a good liberal and covered american politics, to realize the connection between the citizen and the
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state all across sub-saharan africa was bankrupt, that was the future part of what i realized was driving the innovations i went on to document. the reason why people wear needing to generate systems of production for workers that had nothing to do with the formal sector, people needing to find ways to provide a social safety net without government support, people find ways to create health solutions and energy solutions in the absence of electricity. all of these things were driven by a fundamental lack of belief in government and for me coming from a place where there is garbage collection and the lights won't go out, that was one very important difference for me in terms of trying to understand the political economy of what i was writing about. i am sure we can talk about that because there are lots of ways to think about the role and reach of the state in africa and
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everywhere. the second was agriculture. this book when i started conceding it, to talk about it with folks and pitch it was a book about cellphones, cellphones come into africa, everyone is collected and we have a problem, all of that is true, but i think this sort of very basic sort of two of every three people in the continent are touched by agriculture, food production, and land use, the future of all that in africa is the most important thing. >> that wasn't the the front of your consideration living in hyde park. >> not even that. this is so interesting given the essentials nature of food production for the world's. one of the things that should make africa important for everyone, the idea that we need so much more food than we had, more land than we have, we have
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sort of quite damaging capital labor-intensive food production, and africa is a real natural solution to provide solutions to poverty and hunger at the same time so that to me was a revelation and to realize there is so much to do and that had not occurred to me as something that was as important as it is in sub-saharan africa. >> i am wondering what your own identity and background brought to this story and the places where it created an obstacle? if i go into a small village in south africa to do my reporting and you go into a village in kenya or nigeria there's a different reaction to that our arrival and i am curious how you thought about that as you were setting off because in some ways, in terms of race and
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background and language you had a point of affiliation. in other ways you were an outsider, a single woman in her 20s living alone as you point out in the book so i am curious what were the advantages and where were the tricky spots? >> that is a wonderful question. nigeria is my country and everywhere else including chicago to a certain extent i am traveling. i lived in kenya. i chose kenya for a particular reason. the tech explosion, the first story i ever wrote that was around the themes of the book was about google africa. the builds eight offices and playing hard for consumers and this exploding technology sector, a big play was in kenya with mobile financial services so i went to kenya in part
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because it wasn't nigeria and i could move between cultures and professional environment with more ease i thought then in nigeria where there would be expectations of me culturally. that proved to have been an positive decision. i traveled to several countries in the course of two years and in each place there were advantages in being able to sort of not invite people to begin performing -- in many places the donor economy comes with like phases and provokes a certain set of behavior's and a certain set of discretion, lack of disclosure than it might be in the case of someone who looks like someone even if they are not from the same background so that was an advantage. my trip to somalia and other more conservative countries,
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quite a disadvantage to be a woman. in washington as well, let's be clear. knowing your stuff, having the right questions, understanding of the sort of informal expectations in terms of interaction with someone particularly someone in government really matters and i have to be completely covered. i thought that was uncomfortable and i had never been in a situation like that. having reported from israel and turkey i hadn't had that experience before. not only was this odd as someone who's very american to be covered but also it was so hot, 95 degrees. i couldn't believe it. for the most part, it cut both ways. very enriching and humbling to travel from these different cultures. >> one of the exciting things about this book was we hear the voices of so many young people and you point out that 70% of the population in sub-saharan
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africa is below the age of 30. many commentators see that, including african heads of state, see that fact as the president of south africa likes to say, the ticking time bomb. you see the flip side of that, a situation that creates tremendous potential. >> the demographics are shocking. it blows my mind, the statistics, the youth bulge. it is worth looking at these charts that map out places like india which is a similar profile, china, which has a gap quote with the policy has kicked in and places like italy, japan, western europe in general, where the replacement rate where it is like 2.1 people for every
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couple. that is not enough to sustain the productivity levels that the macroeconomic level are important for global competitiveness legion sub-saharan africa you have this enormous youth bulge. i call it a demographic dividends and a workforce that is maturing as a result of public health gains, living past childbirth, increasingly following through the educational system and posed to take ownership of economies that a sprinting ahead. those dynamics are incredibly positive for a sub-saharan africa. what is frustrating and i hear this -- i heard this everywhere. there is a mozambican anthropologist who talks about weight hood. the space between childhood and adulthood where you are stuck,
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you don't have economic opportunities that match your ambition. the juggernaut gdp growth has not trickled down in the form of the job. you are working in the informal sector, you are ambitious the don't have all of the assets, whether it tangible or skills based to move on with your life. to get married. to become an adult. so a lot of these millions, tens of millions of people in sub-saharan africa, and when you look at an organization like al shaba shabaab, those are the fruits of idleness with an overlay of religious extremists some. and so that is one of the respect. the other spectrum is incredibly dynamic young people who live profile throughout the book who are doing incredibly important things to solve problems locally and scale them to improve the continent and the world's. the frustrating thing for all
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these folks is not economics of weight hood but the political economy where their governments, in sub-saharan africa the largest gap between the age of leadership and the age of the public in the world. in the united states is 16 years. barack obama is 52. we are talking leaders like cameroon who is 82, we're talking about folks who are geriatric and a population that is under 30 and hungry and concerned and motivated but the gap is 46 years compared to 16 in the united states. beyond that economy you also have this sort of -- is not a ticking time bomb and terms of the population being dangerous, but a bunch of waiting for these leaders to move on and young people to assert authority in these hierarchical simple
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structures where people are encouraged to defer to elders and wait their turn. is a recipe for frustration but the book profiles different people are taking on that challenge and doing it in a way that is instructive for young people everywhere. >> one of the things you encourage in the book is to drop archaic language, first world, third world, developed world, developing world and you encourage us to replace it with the words that end lean. i wonder whether you are just trying to to poke us for having bad diets or where you are driving us with that distinction? i assume moving away from developed and developing is important because we want to look at the situation from the inside out and the bottom up, not the top down and if we say developed and developing we are assuming other people are on the trajectory of where we have been in the u.s.. >> and that is a dangerous
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assumption. it is provocative, meant to tweak -- i do want to say the west is silly given how much economic activity is happening in the eastern hemisphere as it were and mapping in general. i am obsessed with maps, they weaved throughout the story in terms of being a way of thinking about orientation. >> family to technology. >> orientation toward africa has always been ridiculous in terms of the way we match it. even the borders of states i contend are themselves part of the problem. a term like developing is very normative. assumes it is one direction, it is linear. you started this donate and end and las vegas and that is the wage should be. i disagree with that. there are elements of advanced economy is a wealthy societies that are problematic and i documented a few of them in an
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op-ed for the new york times, you think about oil dependence, overleveraged households, diet and consumption, energy use, to the extent that consumption is an issue for wealthy countries these lean economy is where consumption is constrained and recycling is obvious, it is a necessity, there's something behavioral to look and learn from these lean economy is and also innovation is something we talked about so much in the contemporary moment. it has always been to me a little misguided when you think of american innovation, silicon valley innovation, where you have superpool iphone apps will find you a parking space or track whenever. innovation toward trivial issues. i wanted to focus on lean economy is in the book because
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these are for the most incredibly important issues of our time. energy consumption being a very important one. if you are going to see retail solutions for of great energy will see them in africa first. you are seeing some right now because the pain point is there because energy doesn't -- energy is constant, people living in a state where the lights could go off at any moment. for public health, finding ways of decentralizing care, we spent 18% of gdp on health care in the united states and is not any better, i covered this debate in washington. when you look at our shifting, there have been so few medical resources on the continent, nurses do the work of doctors, community health workers are trained to do the work of nurses, laypeople do the work of community health workers, it is the watchword and you are seeing some communities in the u.s. and
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throughout sub-saharan africa, there's resource scarcity and it is an important way of bringing this sort of bowling alone problem if you're familiar with that the we have in the u.s. where no one knows one another, people don't have as many friends as they used to 25 years ago, communities are fragmented and there's no civic local culture, sort of village spirit for lack of a better word that you see across sub-saharan africa in terms of family relationships and extended family relationships are a response as i mentioned during the year to -- a good example of been sort of politics. >> you use the word conju for make do or hustle. what are other examples of that in practice? the other thing i think you what and in this book is the expectation that there are only things in africa, only things in u.s. or europe for africans to
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learn rather than the other way around. >> the book is literally only about that. con conjuis about necessity, shifting for public health is a good example. something like of great energy solutions are another good example. the other one is global financial services, when you are in an environment, i talked-about kenya where it exploded. mobile money which is the ability to use your cellphone as a bank account to send money, i owe you 10 bucks, exploded. exploded in kenya because it is up place where there are 40 million people in 2500 atms and no checking accounts and mortgages and access to finance. in the cash economy people of keeping money in coffee cans and mattresses and pillows and there is no sort of formal hand reached out from the banking sector to empower people who do
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have assets, not dirt-poor but not able to participate in this sort of global financial system will loan the regional financial system. .. the regional financial system so mobile money was the telecom -- it began as mobile air time transfers where the telecom has enabled people to send minutes, backing up a little bit, it is all prepaid because there is no credit reporting system and very few formal addresses so how can you have traditional accounts? because it is all prepaid people change minutes back and forth. here is ten minutes for that taxi ride. people immediately realize what an incredible ideas this was and use it to use it as a quasi currency. the telecom realize what is happening, $500,000 grant from the u.k. development agency to pilot a real banking system
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using cellphones and a long story short, at 86of hon ca >> >> it allows people to build assets with their financial lives and what is most six site -- exciting day later on with access to credit and loans and rudimentary credit report. so without cellphone say and no access to finance we never would have invented of mobile product like this. that is the excellent example of something that economists have spent struggling with for ever. that is a great example and
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i have other examples in the book like that. >> host: we will begin to take questions if people want to go to the microphone i do want to dominate the questions. so one of the beautiful examples is the comic book and radio show. i wondered if you would talkrç about the new ways to reach people with news about everything they need to know about the connection and and where to keep creditors to go after them. with fraud from teaching standpoint. explained that. >> guest: it is a radio show and comic book in kenya
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it generated as mostly music videos. that is it and we already talked about the demographics that is extremely large young population and people engaged in a way to develop skills from what people are not getting in school. also with the free educational system they try to offer tips for making money and in civil society and the reach is really remarkable because it embraces the truce. a graphic novel is so different it has an incredible cast of characters and tells stories
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which keeps the chickens from being stolen by hawks which is a problem by trying to raise livestock but there is called the attrition. so they put this in the magazine they also have a radio show all across sub-saharan africa which is everywhere. and what i think is really interesting is they tried to reach those who have dropped out of school are not perfectly well educated but to improve their minds and reach out in a way that is social. a book is one thing but as a comic book or a magazine you can pass it around so they determined the media as well as the message a and it is a
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great model. and i was a critique myself little bit with technology and family and commerce and agriculture and energy but it is a vital ingredient to society and democratic culture is as important as water and electricity in my opinion. there are really some amazing ventures that can meet people i did not cover your mouth is the tool for this agenda. >> as part of the first question right thing about africa i was wanted to ask you about the other sensational thing which is coming out as a gay man, there is not much in this book about the struggle
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from the lgbt people especially against the backdrop of so much coverage. i wonder how you think about that and your own experience ? >> i have known them about eight years and i am incredibly proud of him. it was not a secret. i read about the ugandan bill with the sponsor i was only gone a couple of months at the time but one of those classically cenacle distractions and a place where people have without jobs presidents have been there since 1986 sam people
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who are not concerned with homosexual of a deeper say, that is something that has been used as people in the country there are more complicated issues with their political scene. however homophobia in africa is quite real and it is quite dangerous and it depends the country and the city may be nairobi that is1wç cosmopolitan the things are different than roll areas. yukio the had its first pride parade this week which is remarkable considering the danger angus what the nature is. population the viewing animosity or a political class. but i point to my discussion
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of community norms is a very important dynamic of sub-saharan africa that to create a support system. so '02 talk a little bit about seven golf -- seven gold rings is practiced for centuries but in senegal where they tried to eradicate the practice we would have to do it as a right to of a redding -- a wedding day butted one generation over steady work in one generation it is shifting and it is no longer a practice. with people to stand up the greek collectively and
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publicly that they would not cut their daughters. once everyone did it it was a shared public norm that immediately changed people's behavior. to the extent they are interested in legislative solutions do go to actions i am not sure that is the way to go. maybe it is less sexy to get those communities but but that is my general argument the government is not where you go for change in africa. exactly. >> i am from chicago. just down the street. you touched upon it the question i was going to ask that people not looking to
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the government for help or support but but typically as the stereotype those you mentioned the importance of family and smaller social groupings. what is your perception of how africans themselves perceived governing as a nation? you mentioned earlier the mapping is all wrong so how do you see that devolving over time with the hope to be effective national governments of sub-saharan africa? >> that is a fine question. you are right the contours of states themselves did not define the way people live their lives. the region from the west and
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-- the west coast is the economics don't crossing borders with economic activities, it thrives crossing borders even all 17 countries said west africa so that they capture and experience or economics is a huge problem. beyond the day to day how people negotiate i think there are benefits to sinking about not just a nation by nation environment to look at the country of nigeria of 70 million people but the country is under 6 million.
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so we hope that entire western african community is comfortable like brazil and china and india and east africa like ethiopia and to dance india have a powerful zero economic bloc. look at southern africa is the same story that the continent as a whole is sub-saharan africa is 800 million people. the attraction for the investor class of the big six floating commercial zones is more pronounced the po granular sort of regional basis i think people are so disappointed in national government was a story i heard over and over again where like citizens all over the world people asked what have you done for me lately? the answer when looking good so many african states is
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absolutely nothing whether it is the education system or the road in front of your house or public health outcomes it is really disappointing so people come up with alternative arrangements, they buy generators for their houses and it can be very frustrating. i would say i believe this about american government. municipal government is much more exciting about the federal government i used to cover in washington and to the extent that it relates to people where they are, it offers regional and local sort of skin in the game it is more exciting and i say the same about sub-saharan africa, communities are vocal that can actually assess needs on the ground, make decisions about allocation of resources. this has been going on for centuries. we disrupted that with the political overlay of the traditional map of africa to the extent that local is better from political and economic
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perspective, that is my best hope for african governance at least in the short term. i would hold out hope these national governments would improve in the long term but right now it is a bit cool to her 8 million people hostage, their leaders underperformed. >> in the book you suggest that children and grandchildren of the african diaspora have a role to play. you mentioned the move back and the rest of it. i wonder if out of your own experience and seeing what other people have gone back have been doing, whether you think there is a generational kind of click of recognition that comes from that process. >> i would say yes. i think one exciting element of what had been years of export, brain drain they used to call it is what i call brain gain. folks like i suppose myself, who
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have an understanding of the incredible dynamism in sub-saharan africa and the fact, i really believe this is fact, it is one of the most if not the most important story of the 21st century. it might take someone like yourself who has visited or spent time living in africa of little time to get to that realization but it is a slighted vantage in whatever sector if you are working in private equity or public health and you want to do something interesting in technology or you want to start of another business. of family friends who used to pick me up from school when i was growing up in chicago who is from ethiopia, he generated here after having done an advanced degree in what was then czechoslovakia andas